Given the year we’ve just had, it’s understandable to reflect on how far-reaching the economic effects of Covid-19 and lockdown will be, particularly on business and employment.
Allia Future Business centre - Peterborough, the city of entrepreneurs?
Louise Porter, who recently joined the Allia team in Peterborough to work with local entrepreneurs and innovators, writes:
Despite that fact, as a Peterborough native, I’m pleased to report the fiery entrepreneurial spirit of the people of Peterborough is burning brightly, with record numbers of business registrations in the last year.
The first few months have flown by and the experience has been inspiring, so I suppose I want to do my part to put Peterborough on the map. In fact, I think Peterborough could become the ‘city of entrepreneurs’!
We know things have been really tough. Measures like the furlough scheme have helped to protect millions of jobs, but the number of people out of work is still expected to grow. The most recent rate of unemployment was 5%, the highest figure for five years and even still some economists are predicting this figure will rise more in 2021 to 6.5% (2.2 million)1. In the East of England, 43,000 people were made redundant between August to October, which was the third highest regional level in the country2.
Yet, standing in the face of adversity, it would seem that the people of Peterborough were keen to create their own opportunities. Inform Direct3 reported that ‘Cambridgeshire recorded 7,516 companies formed in 2020. Despite everything that happened during the year, it still saw 8.6% more companies than 2019. There was a positive response across the county as numbers of dissolutions dipped and incorporation number grew. Peterborough incorporated the most companies at 2,511.’ An astounding fact when you reflect on Peterborough being voted the worst place to live in England for past three years! An accolade only matched by Hull, which went on to become a City of Culture. Which shows how unreliable these polls can be.
At the beginning of this year, Allia re-launched its free business support programmes in Peterborough, with interest from aspiring and working entrepreneurs overwhelming expectations! The businesses that have applied for our programmes really prove what a dark horse Peterborough is, from cheesemakers challenging the global cheese order to apps that will revolutionise how science is taught. It demonstrates the breadth and diversity of ideas that originate from the rich tapestry of the people who call Peterborough home. The city is not just surviving the pandemic, but in many cases, it is thriving.
The ventures that are being built every day here challenge the global phenomenon dictating that every successful business or entrepreneur must live in the largest city a country has. It rejects the view that capital cities are what define a country and highlights the opportunity that exist in every city throughout the UK.
Being great at what you do or having an exciting business idea is not limited to those who want to change the world, it also includes those who want to transform their community.
While the game changers and entrepreneurs are burning the midnight oil and working their side hustle, Allia will continue to support them in whatever industry they work in. Our Impact Accelerator, which is dedicated to supporting innovative ideas tackling deep rooted social issues, launched in February with 12 founders from the Peterborough community. Ranging from automation solutions to help reduce paper waste to health and wellbeing apps, the creativity is endless. Already, we’ve witnessed the passion and energy they have to build job-creating businesses and combine this energy with their ambition to change the world for good.
For those focusing more locally, just last week we launched our Grow Your Business (GYB) programme (with 12 entrepreneurs on programme), which is open to any established local business, regardless of industry. The GYB provides free tailored support over three months to support business in growing and creating employment opportunities in the city. As a critical friend, sounding board and connector, the Allia team works with entrepreneurs to navigate the myriad of challenges on the often very lonely road of being your own boss.
At Allia, we would like to see the number of incorporations grow year on year, and we are committed to supporting that growth. Our current suite of programmes will be running until June 2023 thanks to European Regional Development Funding and we will continue to work with local partners who want to support a vibrant Peterborough. As we unlock from Covid restrictions, we will also help support the innovators and inventors with our Innovation Lab, which is set to reopen imminently. This fully-equipped lab facility is part of our Future Business Centre in Peterborough, and one of the only places in the city for the design, development and testing of products, with 3D printers, CAD, electronics and systems, digital media and more, all under the guidance of an experienced technician.
As someone who has lived in Peterborough for all my life, I believe the city has a lot going for it. I’m optimistic about where we are going, and I’m thrilled to be working with so many amazing Peterboroughians who believe in a brighter tomorrow.
Allia is a not-for-profit organisation that supports businesses - through flexible workspace, social finance and free business support - so that they can grow and create positive impact, on their communities and on the planet.